Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
13 February 2004
The Australian Government is championing the cause of a much-maligned species by pushing for a global ban on the trade in Great White Shark products.
Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced today that Australia would be nominating the Great White Shark for listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the next meeting of member countries in October this year.
"Despite being one of the fiercest predators in the ocean, the Great White Shark is extremely vulnerable," Dr Kemp said.
"Great White Sharks mature very slowly and females give birth to a small number of young only every two to three years, so that the international trade in shark products can have a major impact on population numbers.
"The Great White is also much rarer than most other sharks. Scientific evidence suggests the population has declined by at least 20 per cent over the last three generations, and even more in some areas.
"It is extremely vulnerable to target and bycatch fisheries, some of which supply high-value products for international trade.
"Products derived from the Great White Shark include 'trophy' items such as jaws and teeth, and fins for foods like shark fin soup. Increasing demand for these products has increased their value. Recent reports have identified sums of up to $50,000 paid for jaws from South Africa and $600 for individual teeth.
"A CITES listing will make it illegal for any of the 161 member countries to trade in Great White Shark products."
The Great White Shark is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which catalogues and highlights species that are facing a high risk of global extinction. But the IUCN notes that "a global status of endangered may prove more accurate for this shark as further data are collected".
"While we don't know how many Great White Sharks remain in the world's oceans, all the scientific evidence points to a decline in the abundance and average size of the species," Dr Kemp said.
"The Great White is a highly migratory species and unless global action is taken to protect it and its habitat, it could face extinction.
"Australia is already recognised as a world leader in the protection of sharks. We successfully lobbied for the listing of the Great White Shark on the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS) in 2002. The species is fully protected in Australia under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. While it also receives protection in the USA, South Africa, Namibia, Malta and the Maldives, only a global trade ban will give the Great White a fighting chance of survival."
Actions to Protect Toothfish
- At the CITES Conference of Parties held in 2002, Australia worked actively with other countries, especially Chile, to considerably strengthen a resolution calling on CITES Parties to commit to a number of actions, including:
- using the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Catch Documentation Scheme ( which monitors the trade in toothfish) to circumvent imports of toothfish from Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, also known as pirate fishing and reporting on their use of the Scheme; and
- recommending that Parties engaged in the capture of trade in toothfish adhere to the CAMLR Convention.
- At the 25th meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Committee on Fisheries, Australia successfully proposed that the problem of IUU fishing be bought to the attention of the FAO Ministerial Council.
- At CCAMLR XXII in October 2003, the Commission agreed to a number of initiatives put forward by Australia and other like-minded States to combat pirate fishing including:
- a trial centralised Vessel Monitoring System;
- the extension of the trial electronic Catch Documentation Scheme; and
- eight pirate fishing vessels listed on the IUU vessel lists.
- As part of Australia's strategy for CCAMLR XXIII (October 2004) Australia intends to work towards full implementation of the centralised Vessel Monitoring System and the electronic Catch Documentation Scheme and will continue to ensure that all vessels implicated in IUU fishing are placed on the IUU vessel lists.
- Australia and likeminded States are pursuing stronger surveillance and enforcement options to target IUU toothfish operators.
- On 24 November 2003 the Australian Government signed a treaty with France on maritime cooperation. Further, Australia is currently seeking similar agreements with the Republic of South Africa and New Zealand.
- In December 2003 the Australian Government announced funding for a permanent civilian patrol program for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area of known IUU toothfish operator activity, with the ability to conduct surveillance and enforcement patrols.
- Successfully opposed proposals by whaling countries over a number of Conferences of the Parties to reduce the CITES protection for whales. (CoPs 10/11/12)
- Proposed and was successful in increasing the protection of the Australian population of Dugongs by uplisting it to Appendix I (CoP11).
- Supported resolutions on Synathids which were the basis for the listing of sygnathids on Appendix II (CoPs 11/12)
- Called for increased global protection of all shark species through the adoption of a resolution on the conservation and management of sharks (CoP 12)
- Worked actively to ensure that elephant culling and the illegal ivory trade is monitored, investigated and reported through the establishment of MIKE (Monitoring of the illegal Killing of Elephants) program and ETIS (Elephant Trade Information System).
- Produced the identification kit for the whale shark which underpinned the successful listing of this species on Appendix II (CoP 12)
- Actively run an intensive program of capacity building within the Oceania region to assist developing country Parties to CITES meet their CITES obligations.
- The environment NGOs, Traffic and Humane Society International (HIS), stated that Australia, through the development and adoption of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, has the world's best practice implementation of CITES.
- Significantly contributed to the development of the CITES Resolution on Toothfish (CoP 12).
- Appendix 1 -
Species needing the most urgent protection are listed in Appendix I. Trade in these species is subject to extremely strict regulation, and is only authorized in exceptional circumstances.
- Appendix II -
Species that need protection to prevent them from being threatened with extinction are placed in Appendix II. Trade in these species is subject to strict regulation. Additionally, species can be included in Appendix II if they closely resemble other species already listed on Appendix II.
- Appendix III -
Parties may list species on Appendix III if they require assistance in determining major import and export States for that species. Any trade in species listed in Appendix III must be accompanied by a Certificate of Origin.
CoP - 'conference of the parties' of members/parties of CITES